The first reviews for World War Z have been coming out over the past few days, and they're generally ranging from neutral to sort-of positive. The consensus: Parts of the film are thrilling, parts are painfully slow, and the overall effect is a reasonably solid thriller that happens to have a ton of zombies in it.
To read the mass of World War Z reviews is to realize how much this film benefits from lowered expectations — a couple years of bad press have lowered the bar to the point where everybody goes in primed for a trainwreck. Instead, they get a reasonably okay film. Albeit one that bears no resemblance to Max Brooks' novel. Here's what people are saying.
The Hollywood Reporter seems to like World War Z okay, despite some reservations:
A bunch of impressive set pieces stitched together rather than a good story convincingly told, this gargantuan production should ride Brad Pitt's name, teeming action scenes and widespread interest in all things zombie to strong box office returns... There is certainly a tension running through the film between latent serious ambition and lowest-common-denominator-pleasing requirements, with the latter ruling the day most of the time without entirely erasing evidence of the former.
The Guardian likes the film as a whole, but got bored in parts:
While some of World War Z is rotten, the whole stands as a punchy, if conventional action thriller... It's only when the zombies' groans stop that yours are likely to start. World War Z's slow sections are draggy and predictable. Gerry's relationship with his family (ensconced on a navy cruiser off the coast of Washington) is a paltry scrap of emote-a-bait. His relationships with other survivors – an attempt to introduce a Walking Dead-style sense of fragility perhaps – are hampered by their tendency to get eaten a beat or two after we meet them.
Empire Magazine gives it three out of five stars:
[World War Z] sets out to actually show a worldwide assault by the undead. The result is slick, tense and hangs together fine, far from the disaster many predicted during its tortured birthing. But it's also just a little bit bland and generic. In particular, horror fans jonesing for grand-scale carnage are unlikely to come away entirely satisfied.... This is a movie in which millions of people die, but barely a drop of blood is seen. As for guts, forget it: these zombies — and the word is used regularly — don’t seem to have an appetite.
Total Film also complains about the lack of gore and real emotion:
[I]t’s not just the intestines that are missing – with Lane’s family crisis set against such a monumental backdrop, WWZ is sorely lacking in heart (and with it, any genuine sense of danger). The Hollywood blockbuster might be a bit late to the zombie party, but it arrives now exactly as everyone hoped and feared – hectic, deafening, empty but oh-so-spectacular.
The Telegraph is particularly let down by the ending which was added at the last minute:
[T]he final product has an elaborate uselessness about it, like a broken teapot glued back together with the missing pieces replaced by parts of a vacuum cleaner. The Welsh finale, in particular, looks spectacularly cheap, and the screen-stretching vistas and computer-generated hordes from earlier in the movie are nowhere to be seen.
IGN also complains about the weak final act, but likes a lot of it:
The film, which Pitt also produced, is designed to be less a horror movie than it is a globe-spanning, international thriller, albeit one with zombies in it. This isn't Rick and Shane camping in the woods. Nah, Pitt's character, Gerry Lane, jets around the world — well, what's left of it — in search of an answer to how to stop the plague before it's too late! You could say this is the epic of zombie films… and it works for the most part.
World War Z is an almost complete and utter failure; it doesn’t function as an entertaining zombie film, or really as anything else either. It’s as dull as dishwater, and falls at pretty much every hurdle that a film like this can. Though the score – a combination of Marco Beltrami and Brit rockers Muse – is nicely produced and a few of the action beats work when they’re not ruined by the obnoxiously invasive rhythm of the editing, this on the whole is somehow even worse than the flop we all had been dreading.
Indiewire finds the massive scale destruction paradoxically lacking in stakes:
There's all kinds of destruction, but the human cost isn't dwelled on, and more specifically, we never have time to care about our central character... As has been with the trend with tentpoles this summer, "World War Z" isn't truly bad; it's competently made and has enough memorable moments or scenes to make you walk out feeling like you weren't cheated out of the ticket price.
Digital Spy really liked the film, giving it four out of five stars:
Diehard zombie fans may find there's not enough gore, no lingering close-ups of the undead feasting on entrails, but grossness is replaced by a richly thick atmosphere of constant threat. The hellish tableaux of cityscapes where the masses are made to look like colonies of bacteria blooming in a petri dish are truly horrifying, and Gerry is always an inch away from being swallowed up in it.
HeyUGuys also has mixed feelings about the movie, however:
Before we get to the edge-of-your-seat finale, we have to endure a long period in the middle section of this title that lags somewhat. The premise of one man fighting hoards of dead citizens is a concept that has grown rather tired on the big screen, and the scenes seem formulaic and repetitive. It isn’t until the narrative starts to build towards a conclusion and loose ends appear to be tying up, that we can regain an interest in this story.
Possibly the most upbeat review comes from Variety, which says:
Considering the incoherent shambles he made out of his James Bond movie, “Quantum of Solace,” Forster handles the large-scale action here with considerable aplomb and much striking imagery, enhanced by the seamless mix of choreography, prosthetics and CG that bring the herking, jerking zombies to “life.” That these zombies have particularly sensitive hearing allows Forster and his sound designers a field day with creaking doors, broken glass crunching underfoot, and in one especially tense moment, a soda can rolling across a cafeteria floor. Moreover, the director always keeps the movie rooted in a compelling dramatic situation.